County Court Courier

JUNE 1996 (Volume 3, Number 8)



Minutes of the Executive Board Meeting Conference of County Court Judges May 3, 1996

The Executive Board Meeting convened at approximately 8:30 a.m. and the Minutes from the prior meeting were approved as was the Treasurer's Report. President Bob Zack opened his remarks by thanking Judge Peter Blanc for overseeing the County Judge's Handbook which is now completed.

The Joint Circuit-County Conference Committee has met several times and significant goals of our Conference have been achieved. We are again inviting this Joint Committee to meet at the Annual Bar Meeting.

The Board nominated the following Judges for office:

Gene Turner - President-Elect
Judy Goldman - Secretary
Leonard Feiner- Treasurer

During Judge Blanc's Administration and Management Committee Report, President Zack reported that the Long Range Planning workshop went well, was valuable and Judge Blanc did a great job. Judge Goldman suggested it be repeated with a Judge-Facilitator the next time.

Judge Terry Lewis and Judge Tom Freeman have been nominated for the Judge Harvey Ford Award. Any additional nominations should be forwarded to Judge Bill White, Chair of the Awards Committee.

Interest on prejudgement interest is not permitted under recent case law, according to Judge Freeman, Chair of the Claims Committee. That Committee also supports the Florida Bar Small Claims Committee in adopting the position that Small Claims Jurisdiction should NOT be increased, and the Board adopted this position.

Conference Manager Earl Collins announced that the 1997 Winter Conference will be at the Sawgrass Marriott in Pontre Vedre and the 1997 Summer Conference will be at the Registry in Naples.

The Board approved the Sarasota Hyatt for the Fall Executive Board Meeting October 30- November 1, 1996. The Spring Board Meeting will be in Tallahassee to coincide with the Legislative Session, also pursuant to Board approval.

Plans for the upcoming Summer Conference are well underway with Judge Tom Skidmore handling the entertainment for the Installation Dinner Thursday night and Judge Goldman arranging a Children's Program and a Conference Luncheon on Thursday.

Education Chair Terry Lewis said to expect more tracking in the upcoming Educational Programs.

J.A. Liaison Chair Judy Goldman moved that a formal liaison be established with the Circuit Conference (under the auspices of the Joint Conference Committee) to address J.A. issues and the Board gave approval.

During Legislative Chair Gene Turner's report, Presidenl Zack referred Article V passage issues jointly to the Administration & Management Committee and the Media Committee.

Judge Larry Schwartz reported for the Professional Affairs Committee at which time the Board authorized up to $500 ta update the Directory. A motion also passed to merge this Committee into the Media Committee per proposed bylaw change which will be voted on at Summer Conference.

Under New Business, Judge Turner was nominated by the Board for President-Elect, our legislative consultant's compensation was adjusted and the Conference will provide name plaques to all sitting County Judges subject to the Board's funding approval.

The meeting was then adjourned.



Message from "The President"
by Judge Robert S. Zack

As I come to the end of my term as your president, I have mixed emotions. In certain ways I am relieved that I no longer have to shoulder the awesome responsibility of representing this most distinguished body. On the other hand, I feel sad that I will no longer have the privilege of being the representative of the most special group of people ever gathered together on the face of this earth. We are a group of two hundred and fifty plus, separate minds, egos and personalities who are as diverse as we are the same. No matter how different we are, we all have certain things in common. We all have the burning desire to see that justice prevails, that the Florida Judicial System is a leader throughout the United States, and that we uphold the tradition of excellence of the County Judges of the State of Florida. I want to thank all of you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your president.

I have mentioned before that the president is only as good as the people he appoints to work for his or her administration. I can't name everyone in this article, however I want to thank those who have helped me to make this administration a success so let me just say, "Thanks for all your help, I couldn't have done my job without you."

Just what has been accomplished during the past two and a half years? I feel that the County Court has taken a leadership role in State Judicial Education. We have spent time and effort in formulating a long range plan for the future of our conference. We have been more than successful in areas of legislation, compensation and enhancing the image of the County Court.

I am confident that President Grimes and his administration will not only continue the work in progress but boldly go where no conference has gone before.

Live long and prosper,





by Judge Peter D. Blanc




Professional Affairs Committee Report
by Judge Lester Langer, Chair

At the recent committee meetings in West Palm Beach the Professional Affairs Committee met. Present were Larry Schwartz, Ron Rothschild, Tom Skidmore, Bob Zack - together with myself.

We discussed the future of the Professional Affairs Committee and its' continued viability as a separate committee for our conference. The question ultimately was to be brought up before the executive committee meeting. The question was brought up before the executive committee meeting and was determined that the Professional Affairs Committee will cease to exist and be folded into one of the other committees of the conference so that the goals of the Professional Affairs Committee could be better met and not duplicate already existing efforts by our members.

I would like to thank all of the members of the conference who have worked on the Professional Affairs Committee and done so with a great deal of success. It is my belief that the committee has successfully completed its' mission of sensitizing the Judges in our conference to our needs and that the work of the Professional Affairs Committee shall continue under another banner in the years to come.




by Judge Tom B. Freeman, Chair

The Claims Committee unanimously voted to recommend that the Conference advise the Supreme Court that the Conference be1ieves that the small claims jurisdiction should not be increased at this time.

The committee also believes the conference should be aware that the Florida Supreme Court in Quality Engineered Installation Inc. vs. Highley South Inc. 21 Fla. L Weekly S141, said that interest is to run on all damages including pretrial interest You will need to get those old judgment forms out and dust them off

We also feel that a good education topic in the near future would be how different counties use mediation and other methods to keep up with the increasing case loads we face in small claims. We believe this would be a good panel discussion presentation.




by Judge Aymer "Buck" Curtin for Olin W. Shinholser, Chair

The Sentencing Committee met on Thursday, May 2, 1996 with seven (7) members in attendance.

The Sentencing Sub-committee headed by judge Leifman did not have a report available as their work is not completed. All judges are encouraged to contact Judge Steven Leifman, North Dade Justice Center, 5555 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, 33160 if you are aware of or involved in any effective sentencing programs employed in county court. Upon receipt of the report the Committee will compile a list of effective programs which will be distributed at a later date.

Judge White discussed expansion of Fla. Statutes 316.655 (5)(k) which provides incarceration of minors in adult detention facilities upon conviction for criminal traffic offenses. Cur-rently only a minor convicted of a violation of F.S. 316.027 accidents involving death or personal injury can be incarcer-ated. The Committee believes additional violations should be studied and that the Legislative Committee should become involved in this subject as well. This also opens the issue as to whether county court should be involved with minors/juveniles or whether these crimes should fall under Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes.

Judge White discussed expansion of Fla. Statutes 316.65S (S)(k) which provides incarceration of minors in adult detention facilities upon conviction for criminal traffic offenses.

Judge Slaughter asked that the committee discuss the length of probationary sentences. The concern is the extended periods of time needed to complete conditions such as payments of fines and restitution. He suggests two (2) years would be a more realistic period of time. This would enable defendants who are making good faith efforts to complete all the conditions imposed. The consensus of the committee was that while such a change would be good it was unrealistic to believe such a change would occur.

Judge Brown brought up for discussion the new changes in the domestic violence law.

In July 1996 mandatory attendance of the 26-weel counseling session based on the Duluth model for those who re convicted or plea to domestic violence will take effect. Ii such mandatory requirement is not ordered by the presiding judge, written findings explaining why must be made. Th. question was asked if adjudication is withheld would attendance be mandated? No one seemed to have an answer. The cost of such programs are approximately $775.00 which exceeds the capabilities of many defendants. This program doesn't address the alcohol problems that many defendants have which may contribute to the domestic violence.

Many judges are concerned about the number of private provider programs developing as a result of these mandates. Philosophical discussions ensued over mandatory sentencing provision.

No recommendations arose out of any of these discussions only concerns about the direction in which sentencing was headed. There being no other old or new business the meeting was adjourned.

Chief Judge, E. Earle Zehmer Passed Away On May 18, 1996

Chief Judge, E. Earle Zehmer, of the First District Court of Appeal, State of Florida, passed away on Saturday, May 18, 1996, at the age of 64 years.

Immediately prior to his appointment to the First District Court of Appeal, in 1983, he was a member of the firm of Bedell, Bedell, Ditmar and Zehmer, in Jackson-ville, Florida.

He had practiced law for twenty-three years, before his appointment to the appellate court.

He graduated from the University of Virginia, where he obtained his law degree.

He was a pilot in the Marine Corps of the United States from which he retired as a Major.

Judge Zehmer was a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a member of the Judicial Management Council, which was formerly the Judicial Council of Florida. While it was the Judicial Council of Florida, Judge Zehrner was chairman of the Steering Committee for the Long Range Planning for the Judicial System.

Judge Zehmer is survived by his wife, Patricia, and four grown children, John, Cindy, Carolyn and Peggy.

In the event that the Conference of County Court judges, or anyone else, wishes to send anything, it should be sent to the First District Court of Appeal Courthouse, 301 Martin L. King, ,Jr. Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1850.

Legislation Passes
by Eugene Turner, Legislative Committee Chair

Judicial Compensation

News and confirmation was received while attending the Spring Executive Board/Committee Workshop in West Palm Beach that the salaries for judicial officers was passed by the Legislature and effective January 1, 1997 are as follows:

  Current 1/1/97
Supreme Court 116,244 133,600
District Court 110,432 120,240
Circuit Court 104,619 107,757
County Court 92,995 95,785

This increase represents a full 3% increase for County Court Judges.

Judicial Assistant Compensation Plan

Funds in the amount of $573,989 were provided to fully implement the Judicial Assistant Compensation Package as recommended by the ORCA, effective January 1, 1997.

New Judgeships

Six (6) new circuit judgeships, one each in the 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th Judicial Circuits.

Four (4) new county judgeships, one each in Broward & Duval Counties, and two in Dade County.

All new judgeships shall be filled by election in 1996 and newly elected judges shall take office on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January, 1997.

Article V, State Constitution

Proposing constitution amendments, as recommended by the Article V Task Force, to restructure the Judicial Qualifications Commission, pennit additional sanctions for judicial misconduct, and allow judicial nominating commissions to recommend UD to six Dersons to the aovernor to fill a court vacancy.


by Judge Ayner L. "Buck" Curtin, Chair

The Criminal Rules Committee met on Thursday, May 2, 1996 with only three (3) members in attendance.

The proposed amendment to F.R.C.P. 3.160 requiring a written plea of not guilty at least five (5) days prior to arraignment was discussed again. The Board had not approved the proposed change in January. Judge Heinrich believes the Florida Bar Committee on Criminal Rules has addressed this issue in the past and was opposed to any change. It would appear that the problem in Dade County will need to be addressed by a local rule. The committee does not intend to revise this rule unless specifically requested to do so.

The only other subject discussed was the decriminalization of additional minor offenses by the legislature. No information was available as to any action taken. Supposedly few changes were made this session but this issue should be addressed in greater detail during the next session.

There being no other business the meeting was adjourned.


I would like to remind all members of our meeting in July in Key West. Please advise me of any topics you wish the committee to discuss. All judges are encouraged to do the same.

by Judge Judy Goldman, Chair

The Committee was pleased to learn that J.A.s received the balance of longevity and other wage-related increases that had not been fully funded last year, in addition to an across the board increase for all state employees.

Remaining issues of importance to the Committee are travel reimbursement from the Counties for all J.A.s who wish to attend JAAF Educational Conferences and creating additional educational opportunities for J.A.s.

The JAAF Educational Conference this June in Daytona will include Judicial Elections Ethics. Some Judges reported a need in their Counties for Computer and Technological training for their J.A.s.

The Committee voted to bring a motion before the Board to form a formal liaison with the Circuit Conference to address J.A. issues.

by Judge Terry P. Lewis, Chair

The Education Committee meeting held at the Brazilian Court on May 2nd was we11 attended. We reviewed some of the procedures and forms that we use in our new planning process and are working hard to make the adjustments necessary to insure consistent quality in education programs.

One of our subcommittees is working with the staff of the State Court Administrators Office in compiling a comprehen-sive computerized data base of all judicial education faculty. We feel that this will be a very valuable tool for the committee in trying to arrange for the best presenters for the best topics and format. This is a fairly extensive project but we hope to have it completed in the near future.

Similarly, our materials subcommittee, chaired by Beth Bloom, has taken on the challenging task of putting together a bench book (criminal and civil) for distribution to all judges. This is a long term project but the committee is making progress, having developed a preliminary outline, and is actively seeking help from members of the conference. If you have outlines, forms, or other materials which you think might be helpful in a particular area, or any other helpful suggestions, contact Judge Bloom or one of the other members of the subcommittee, which are: Judge Joel Lazarus, Judge Tom Bateman, Judge Mercedes Bach and Judges Lisa Kahn.

A new technique instituted at the
last conference which proved to be
very useful was a debriefing
session immediately after the
educational program.

Our evaluation subcommittee continues to monitor the forms and procedures we use to evaluate our educational programs. The committee very much appreciates all of the individual written comments on the last conference. These are very helpful. A new technique instituted at the last conference which proved to be very useful was a debriefing session immediately after the educational program. We intend to continue this so, if you are asked to participate in this, I hope you will make the extra effort to help us out.

The summer education program will include a plenary session Wednesday on media relations and Friday on criminal law update and review. Thursday morning will offer a criminal track of jury selection and management issues and a civil track of civil law update and review (including bankruptcy and bad checks). In the afternoon the criminal track will include mandatory liens and costs, first appearance and duty judge, and misdemeanor sex offenses. The civil track from 2:30 to 5:00 will offer a course on election law and ethics. A more detailed agenda and course description will be sent under separate cover to all members.

Some of the topics presently planned for winter of 1997 include criminal and civil law updates, probation, consumer issues, sentencing oddities, domestic relations, professionalism - maintaining civility and out of court, domestic violence, evidence workshop, civil trial issues, Americans with Disability Act. Most of these courses will be tracked. similar to the summer program. For those who are forced to make a tough decision between two interesting looking courses, audio tapes will be made available upon request

The next meeting of the education committee will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23rd, at the Ocean Reef

by Judge Peter D. Blanc, Chair

Approximately twenty Conference members met on May 1, 1996, for a full day Long Range Strategic Planning Session. With the assistance of facilitator, Brenda Wagenknecht-Ivey, the committee focused on identifying long range goals and developing strategies that should allow the Conference to move toward those goals. It was emphasized that this session was simply the first step in what should be an ongoing process. A subcommittee has been appointed and with the assistance of our facilitator it will draft a synthesis of the session and prepare a summary paper which will document the process and its results. Once that draft is completed it will be mailed to all participants for review.

At the summer conference the Long Range Planning Committee will study the report to further identify strategic goals and issues. Thereafter, a proposed Long Range Strategic Plan will be mailed out to Conference Board members. The plan will be formally presented to the Board at the fall Board meeting. The Board will then have the opportunity to discuss the plan and/or rearrange priorities. The final plan will be presented and distributed to all Conference members at our winter meeting. This plan should be of assistance to our incoming President in setting the agenda for his term. It is also anticipated that our own long range strategic plan will be a complement to the long range plan being formulated by the Judicial Management Council Work continues.

Harvey Baxter to Retire
by Karl B Grube

A few of us have a warm spot in our hearts for traffic court duty. But for Harvey Baxter serving in Traffic Court was a passion. Some of us will mark our time in Traffic Court and leave it a somewhat better place than when we began. Few of us however, will ever bring to fruition the many innovations, programs and inventions that Harvey Baxter has brought to the Traffic Division during his 18 years on the Dade County Court bench.

Harvey Baxter will retire June 28, 1996. His retirement is a premature one brought about by a prolonged illness that has left him virtually blind. Harvey is scheduled to undergo a corneal transplant which will hopefully restore his eyesight and enable him to return to service as a retired judge. In a recent article contemplating his retirement and lauding Judge Baxter's accomplishments, the Miami Herald described him as " of Florida's most innovative traffic court judges, who used his post as a bully pulpit from which he snarled at lawyers, chastised cops, punished drunk drivers and championed the rights of law abiding motorists. "

Among the many innovations and programs to his credit, Baxter is most recently acknowledged to have successfully lobbied to have both an ATM machine and a branch of the drivers license office installed in his North Dade court facility. In combination, these two features provide delinquent fine payers with the opportunity to obtain funds and clear their suspended drivers licenses in a one-stop operation. Baxter is also credited with the design and implementation of one of the nation's first closed circuit court video systems that could be used for handling first appearance and bond hearings.

Harvey Baxter has also successfully fought for a law that prevents insurance carriers from penalizing drivers with higher rates if a judge withholds adjudication of guilt on a traffic citation. As a long time member of the Florida Supreme Court's Traffic Court Review Committee, Judge Baxter earned recognition as an authority on Traffic Courts and Impaired Driving Law. His authority status also caused him to be sought out by national news networks for his opinions and commentary. Most recently, NBC Prime Time Live included a view into the Baxter courtroom on a segment dealing with those who drive with licenses suspended. A videotape of this program is now used at the National Judicial College to train other traffic court judges at the Traffic Court Proceedings Program .

Harvey Baxter has always been a staunch supporter and active participant in the activities of our Conference. He is a judge whose enthusiasm, generosity, and dedication to improv-ing our justice system will be impossible to duplicate and greatly missed. We all join together in wishing Harvey Baxter a healthy, happy and productive retirement and we look forward to seeing his reappearance as the "retired mensch on the bench"